How Nigeria's Elite Spend Over $2 Million on Their Dream Weddings by Declan Eytan

Illusionists flown in from Spain, flowers imported from France, or an R&B superstar flown in from the United States. No request seems to be out of line to Nigeria’s rich when it comes to the most beautiful day of their life. And don’t even mention the b-word – budget, that is – ’cause whatever the bride wants, the bride gets.

Due to its oil reserves, gas, telecom and rising entertainment industry, Nigeria may consider itself Africa’s largest economy as of early 2014. But natural resources and Nollywood aside, there’s another million dollar business out there giving the national GPD a major boost: the wedding events business.

The West African nation may be home to the majority of Africa’s billionaires, but there’s no shortage of millionaires either. “Our core clientèle is mainly made up of millionaires. They will not hesitate to spend the money in order to get what they want. If they need to fly in an artist from America, or a decorator from Dubai or London, they will do so,” says Funke Bucknor, founder of Nigeria’s leading wedding and events company, Zapphaire events.

Bucknor is a brand. Apart from her wedding planning duties, she’s published a book titled The Essential Bridal Hand Book, and in the first quarter of 2015 her very own TV show will start airing on a national TV network. She founded her wedding planning business twelve years ago and was amongst the first to do so. Today, her profession which seemed unnecessary to many locals over a decade ago, has become an essential to the moneyed Nigerian bride that wants her wedding to be the talk of town. Or perhaps it is better to say her weddings. ‘Cause one wedding alone just doesn’t cut it. First there is the traditional wedding – the only wedding recognized by the family – followed by the white wedding, which is similar to that which we know in the West. As for the latter, the destination wedding is all the rage. “Dubai and London are the most popular destinations, followed by Cape Town, Seychelles and the Maldives. Florence is currently growing in popularity,” Bucknor adds.

Table decoration at a Nigerian wedding (Photo Credits: Privé Luxury)

In 2013 research company Euromint showed how Nigeria had world’s fastest growing rate of champagne consumption, second only to France, while ahead of other lucrative markets including the US and China. Lagos-based beauty-queen-turned-event-planner, Elohor Aisien, concurs. “Nigerians love champagne, so the most money will be spent on drinks as well as food. On Nigerian weddings there’s food from 2pm till midnight.” Given that the average Nigerian wedding will easily have around 1000 guests, whereas the bigger wedding will have between 2000 and 3000 guests, the choice of champagne is a crucial one. “Old money Nigerians may keep things more subtle, new money Nigerians are more concerned with letting people know that they’ve arrived. Magnums of Dom Pérignon will often be their drink of choice. In a way it’s become this competition amongst brides. They’ll ask me: ‘How many bottles did she have? I need more,’” 33-year-old Aisien says.

Her wedding and events planning company Privé Luxury – founded in 2012 – may be a newbie on the scene, but Elohor can already consider offspring of Nigerian royalty, and the country’s leading female recording artist amongst her clients. “I’ve done the wedding of Reukayat Indimi, who comes from a Nigerian royal family that hails from the north of the country. According to the northern tradition, the bride can’t leave the house during the month leading up to the wedding. Since the bride didn’t have her wedding dress yet, I flew into London with a model who fitted several dresses for her. Elie Saab is a popular choice of wedding dress amongst Nigerians, whereas most grooms I work with want a Tom Ford total look. Vera Wang is also very much in demand, since it fits well on the Nigerian body type,” Elohor says, who may also tick the box that says “celebrity wedding”. In 2013 Privé Luxury planned one of Nigeria’s most talked-about weddings, which ended up being broadcast on a local TV network. It was when Nigeria’s leading female recording artist Tiwa Savage, exchanged vows with husband Tee Billz. Their destination wedding was held at Dubai’s Armani Hotel, part of world’s tallest man-made structure, the Burj Khalifa.”I have a good relationship with the Armani Hotel in Dubai - they love Nigerian weddings,”Aisien concludes.

Some might argue that it is morally wrong for a country in which some have to live on a dollar a day, to add value to how many liters of DP are flowing at a wedding. Others however, claim that if it weren’t for lavish Nigerian weddings, there would be no Nigerian economy. “I appreciate them spending this money, cause without these weddings I don’t know where the Nigerian economy would be,” says Weruche Majekodunmi, founder of Newton & David, a local company specialized in event design and décor. “The weddings keep our economy going. Normally the rich Nigerians will spend their money abroad, whenever they go shopping. Thanks to the wedding industry the money is being invested back into our economy. Jobs of caterers, tailors, carpenters and upholsterers are being sustained. Prior to these major weddings, the profession of make-up artist wasn’t even considered a full-time job,” she explains.

Weruche started working with flowers at church as a hobby, around twenty-five years ago. It was at a time in which Nigerians paid little to no attention, to the decoration of their wedding venue. “Up to fifteen years ago, some weddings wouldn’t even have a table cloth on the tables and they wouldn’t have any flowers except for the bridal bouquet. Nowadays Nigerian weddings will feature expensive flowers from France, silk table cloth and lots of crystal. A lot of the elite Nigerian kids have been educated abroad, so they’re used to the international standard when it comes to detail. They’ve become accustomed to a certain standard, so to import something isn’t unusual to them” the décor specialist slash wedding planner explains. Currently trending amongst the international kids is the flower wall, which surged in popularity after Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kanye West.

Weruche goes on saying, “It has happened three times in the last five years that I’ve organized a wedding that cost over $2 million. They spent the most on food, Cristal champagne, entertainment and gifts to their guests. At one wedding all the invitees got their wedding outfit with their invitation. At another wedding they handed out microwave ovens, smart phones and rice cookers, to all of their guests. At some other weddings they’ll fly in their guests and arrange their accommodation in case they decide to get married overseas. You must understand, that our reasoning is different from that in the West.”

Florida Wedding Information

J. Zara Films offers film services in Tampa Bay and Orlando.  Below are some links to get you started if you are planning a destination wedding in Florida.

Celebrity Weddings 2014: Costly and Captivating

What little restraint that remained, post-recession, over the scope and price of celebrity weddings suddenly vanished on May 24, as Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, in a Givenchy gown, took to the stage at the 16th-century Forte di Belvedere in Florence, Italy, for a wedding that by some estimates cost upward of $12 million. Then again, in show business, demonstrating a lack of restraint is hardly a sin.

Not to be outdone (in abundant style, if not in dollars) was the wedding of the actor George Clooney and the lawyer Amal Alamuddin, in an Oscar de la Renta dress, on Sept. 27, which unfolded at the Amal Canal Grande, a former Venetian palazzo. It was a union that played out on a global scale as a flotilla of paparazzi bobbed along the Grand Canal as they sought to capture glimpses of the couple, their party and guests.

Not far behind as attention grabbers were the singer Solange Knowles and the video producer Alan Ferguson, who were joined in the presence of the bride’s sister Beyoncé and her husband, Jay Z, on Nov. 15 at the Marigny Opera House in New Orleans. The scene stealer there was the bride, who wore a caped white Humberto Leon for Kenzo gown that set what will perhaps become a new fashion trend.

Sure, Katie Couric and John Molner, who were wed before 50 guests on June 21 at the East Hampton, N.Y., home of Ms. Couric, (who wore a dress by Carmen Marc Valvo) managed to make their event a modest one. Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, after years of tabloid speculation, were married in a low-key yet high-style manner (she wore an Atelier Versace gown) on Aug. 23, with their six children and fewer than two dozen guests participating at Château Miraval in Correns, France. The Aug. 2 marriage of Cheryl Hines and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., at the home of the groom’s mother, Ethel Kennedy, in Hyannis Port, Mass., was somewhat more reserved, but had sufficient verve to hint that the “Camelot” of the J.F.K. era is gone but not forgotten.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West leaving their residence in Paris, a day before their wedding on May, 24. Credit Kenzo Tribouillard/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Others, like Scarlett Johansson and Romain Dauriac, who were married Oct. 1 in Philipsburg, Mont.; Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, married Sept. 6 in Italy; and the actress Jodie Foster and the actress and photographer Alexandra Hedison, who were married in April, chose to keep their plans a secret until after their ceremonies.

Still, when it came to the weddings of the conspicuous and outright famous, many went for over the top instead of merely memorable. Nothing less than a 20,000-square-foot ersatz castle with a moat would do for the wedding of Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat guard, and the actress Gabrielle Union, who were married in a black-and-white themed event on Aug. 31 at the Chateau Artisan in Miami.

Gay weddings in 2014 were no less lavish. Nick Denton, the mogul behind Gawker and other sites, had his can-you-top-this moment when he married his partner, Derrence Washington, on May 31 in a ceremony and party for more than 300 guests at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where friends of the couple read from Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” Nate Berkus, the interior designer and television host, and Jeremiah Brent, who also owns an interior decorating firm, chose the New York Public Library main branch for their May 3 wedding, with Oprah Winfrey and Rachael Ray among their 220 guests.

Along the way, the musician Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and the model Behati Prinsloo had a wedding ceremony in front of 300 guests on July 19 at Flora Farms in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with the actor Jonah Hill leading the event. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild, stars of the New York City Ballet, were married June 22 at the General Theological Seminary in New York — just one of three couples from the company who have married this year.


On Sept. 6., Neil Patrick Harris married his partner David Burtka in Italy. Credit Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

The actress Patina Miller (“Pippin,” “Hunger Games”) was married on June 14 to David Mars at the Foundry in Long Island City, Queens. And Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas, co-stars of ABC’s “Once Upon a Time,” in which they play Snow White and Prince Charming, were wed on April 12 in Venice, Calif.

But was this mood to spend trickling down? According to Shawn Rabideau, a New York events planner: “Brides and grooms are still cautious. They are reserved with their planning, and then in the end if there’s a cushion they may spend it. These are brides and grooms that saw their parents go through some tough times in 2008 and 2009 and thus we are finding their spending habits are a bit more selective.”

The buzz at weddings in 2014 wasn’t only about who was walking the aisle and at what cost. The presence of camera-laden drones made news when a United States congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, used one in an effort to capture aerial images of his June 21 marriage to Randy Florke, a home renovator and decorator, in Cold Spring. N.Y. After the multi-rotor device had loudly zoomed over the assembled crowd, it dawned on a political opponent of Mr. Maloney’s that the presence of this device, typically used for surveillance, may have violated the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration — an agency governed, in part, by the Congressional committee on which Mr. Maloney sits.

Others, who were marrying in Colorado and Washington State, where marijuana had been legalized for sale and consumption, decided to openly smoke it at their receptions. A guest at one such wedding — one whose design had come not from the pages of a glossy weddings magazine but from High Times — was startled to find a gift bag containing a joint, a lighter and cannabis-infused lip balm. Marijuana use at weddings is “out of the closet now,” Kelli Bielema of Shindig Events in Seattle told The Times in July.

In sum, 2014 was not only a time for some to financially exhale, but to unabashedly inhale, as well.

A version of this article appears in print on December 14, 2014, on page ST29 of the New York edition with the headline: Caught Up in Their Love Affairs.

The Seamless Look of Birdman

For a few weeks now I have been posting in tribute to the extended take, with many of the posts being about major Oscar contender Birdman.  This post continues that tradition with a video from Variety interviewing a colorist on the Birdman film.  The short video offers some insight into the level of detail that went into getting Birdman to look seamless with its extended takes.  Check it out below:

Wedding Video That Landed 8 People in Jail

For many people, a wedding is the ultimate celebration. But for eight men who attended and videotaped a same-sex marriage in Egypt, where it’s illegal for two men to wed, the occasion resulted in arrests and three-year jail sentences.

The video, which went viral on Egyptian social media and throughout the Middle East, shows two men trading wedding rings while their friends cheer and hug. Once the footage blew up, one member of the wedding protested that it was a joke. But police arrested eight men from the video anyway, and last week a Cairo court sentenced them to three years in prison for “debauchery” and “violating public decency.”

Here’s the footage:

Why Wedding Dress Shopping is so Horrible

By Alyssa Rosenberg November 4 at 1:45 PM

Every person who decides to have a wedding has his or her own encounters with the irrationalities and unfairness of the various industries dedicated to selling expensive white dresses, arranging flowers, catering dinners and selling monogrammed paper napkins and fans. When my colleague Catherine Rampell was a reporter at the New York Times, she launched an economics-minded investigation and concluded that “Bridezillas keep prices high for the rest of us,” their convictions that their marriages cannot be legal without Mason jars or Vera Wang dresses eliminating price elasticity and transparency.

We cannot all have Kate Middleton’s wedding dress, but we definitely deserve a better shopping experience. (Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

For me, the part of wedding planning that has made me feel most like an insane person (thus far) is shopping for a wedding dress. Even if you do not buy the idea that a wedding dress is the most important piece of clothing a woman will ever purchase, it is certainly likely to be among the most expensive. So why is every facet of the traditional wedding dress shopping process set up to make it incredibly difficult for women to make the decisions that are right for them?

Some of the ways in which wedding dress shopping is different from other retail experiences are petty. Certain salons, though not all of them, ban shoppers from taking pictures of themselves in dresses. I suppose I understand why an industry that sells extremely expensive, single-use items with a value that is hugely dependent on perception and sentiment would do this. If I were a bridal designer or retailer, I would be terrified that my potential clients were going to take pictures of my wares and combine practicality with fluttery feelings by asking a seamstress to recreate a dress at a more sensible price point.

But in more consequential ways, bridal retailers often seem to fail at being, well, retailers. I had two appointments with traditional bridal salons earlier this year. And while both had carpeted private changing rooms with boxes for me to stand on so I could pretend I was wearing high heels, and both had saleswomen assigned to me, neither store had the actual dresses I visited them to look at.

On the first trip, I made an appointment at a trunk show (for the uninitiated, an event where designers who do not normally stock their wares in stores bring samples to different cities) at a bridal salon that is part of a larger Washington clothing store. When I made the appointment, I asked specifically about trying on a certain design and was assured it would be available.

But when I showed up and stripped down to my Spanx, the designer’s representative told me that the dress was not available for sale anymore. Which would have been awesome to know before I stuck it on a Pinterest board, much less took off from work early and planned an additional trip to New York to try to track it down.

I tried another traditional bridal salon in Virginia on the strength of the pitch on its Web site: the store is the only local retailer that stocks a couple of brands of dresses that caught my eye. Only, when we got there, the saleswoman tartly informed me that they did not have a single dress from one designer in stock and that they only had a few by the others. Maybe, she suggested, I could come back in a few months when they got the new line in.

This lack of transparency — and why not be honest? — and concern for customers is not just a waste of our time and research energy. It is in direct contradiction with the idea that a wedding dress is important and special.

Apparently, when we show up with pages ripped out of bridal magazines and carefully curated Pin boards, we then are supposed to abandon all of our preferences and research and just fall in love with something else. This is your very special day! But your opinions do not really matter, and because you are a woman, you can be distracted by something else! Wheeee! Cosmos for everyone!

The best wedding dress shopping experiences I had occurred in more-crowded dressing rooms, where I had to share mirrors with other women who are getting married, and my friends had to wait for their entourages to vacate the few available seats. Unlike their snazzier counterparts, J.Crew and Anthropologie — which are relatively new entrants in the wedding dress game — sell dresses at price points that feel only marginally rather than seriously deranged. And when you go to their stores, they actually have the dresses that appear on their Web sites available for you to try on.

When H&M debuted a wedding line that consists of a single $99 dress earlier this year, Caitlin Dewey wrote that the offering “promotes — on a massive, mainstream scale — values that run opposite absolutely everything the wedding industry stands for. H&M is essentially telling brides that what they wear on their wedding day has no bearing on how much they love their spouse-to-be.”

Or maybe it is telling them that no matter what they spend, they deserve clarity about the potential selection and a decent return for what they are willing to shell out. It says a lot about the wedding industry’s failures that this still feels like a radical idea.

Alyssa Rosenberg blogs about pop culture for The Washington Post's Opinions section.